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What are the common stages of the mediation process?

No two legal disputes are exactly alike. Each has its own nuances. Because of that, there is no way to predict the outcome of a case. Bringing matters to court is the traditional means by which individuals at loggerheads would seek resolution. However, in recent years, alternative dispute resolution has often proven useful and more cost effective.

In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, courts often now encourage the use of mediation or arbitration as the first step. If satisfactory terms can't be reached through negotiation, access to the courts remains an option. The questions that an experienced attorney can help answer center on what possible outcomes might result from going to trial – at what cost – and whether ADR methods might be viable.

Stages of mediation

Even though the outcome of a case is unknown, mediation processes tend to follow a conventional course course. Here's what typically occurs.

  1. Introductions: the setting being less formal than a trial, the mediator will usually introduce him or herself, articulate the objective of the process, and lay out rules for how it will be achieved.

  2. Statements: Both parties get a chance to present their view of the issues without interruption from the other side.

  3. Discussions: This may occur with all parties present, or it might be conducted with the mediator engaging the two sides separately. The goal is to move both sides toward agreement, issue by issue.

  4. Negotiations: Once all relevant matters are on the table, the mediator typically brings all the parties back together to begin negotiating terms.

All this will usually occur without the parties having individual representation. If negotiations yield agreement, the mediator will put the terms in writing and have the parties consult with an attorney. If no agreement comes of the talks, a summary of agreed upon issues is drafted and the mediator advises the parties of their possible legal options.

Mediation can save time, money and, potentially, relationships. But it obviously requires commitment from the disputing parties and is sure to benefit from experienced legal counsel.

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